Centro Museums and Galleries, Milan (Self Guided)

Milan is not only the business and fashion center of Italy, it also a cultural center. The city of Milan offers numerous cultural activities, as well as countless art galleries and museums that exhibit some of the world's most famous and imposing artworks and artifacts. Most of these cultural centers are located in the very heart of Milan and within a pleasant walk.
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Centro Museums and Galleries Map

Guide Name: Centro Museums and Galleries
Guide Location: Italy » Milan (See other walking tours in Milan)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 9
Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 4.9 km
Author: karen
1
Cenacolo Vinciano

1) Cenacolo Vinciano (must see)

Santa Maria delle Grazie is an attractive Renaissance church and convent. The convent was completed in 1469 and the church was completed after 21 years in 1490. The dining hall of the convent contains Leonardo da Vinci's fresco, "The Last Supper". Created by Leonardo for his patron Duke Ludovico Sforza and his duchess, this 15th-century wall painting was made on drywall rather than on wet plaster. Therefore, it is not a true fresco. A fresco cannot be altered as the artist works; thus, Leonardo decided to paint on the stone wall and then seal the wall with a sealing layer. His work began to deteriorate a few years after he finished it. Two early copies of "The Last Supper", thought to be the work of Leonardo's assistant, still exist.

During World War II, the church and the convent were demolished by the bombings of the British and American planes. On the sad night of 15 August 1943, nothing was left of the church except some walls including the one that had the fresco "The Last Supper" which had been protected by lining sandbags against it.

Since it is very complicated to restore a fresco, it is kept under a weather-controlled environment. In order to view the fresco, visitors have to do an advance booking of 60 days. They are allowed to stay only for 15 minutes but that is enough to appreciate the unique work of art.

Tip:
Take time to learn and understand the online booking process! Look at their page to see the notice about when tickets will be released for a certain timeframe of visits (e.g. tickets for August are released at 9am Italy time on X date). Then you can calculate EXACTLY when you must get online to purchase the ticket.

Opening Hours:
Tue-Sun: 8.15am-7pm
2
Museo della Basilica di Sant'Ambrogio

2) Museo della Basilica di Sant'Ambrogio (must see)

The Museum of the Basilica of Sant’Ambrogio, established in 1949, contains sacred finds relevant to the Basilica including mosaics and church furnishings. It was established to document the history of the Basilica through a precious collection of artworks and liturgical objects. The gold and silver cross which St Charles Borromeo carried in 1576 in a thanksgiving procession to mark the end of the plague is displayed here among other highlights such as the original chapel and some amazing mosaics.

Why You Should Visit:
Entry to the basilica costs nothing, but if you wish to visit the museum then you will pay just a couple of euros.

Opening Hours:
Mon-Sat: 10am-12pm / 2:30-6pm; Sun: 3-5pm
3
Museo Civico Archeologico

3) Museo Civico Archeologico

Museo Civico Archeologico is a small and fascinating museum that reveals information about the Milan during the era of Roman Empire. It shows how Milan unexpectedly became the capital of the empire in the fourth century A.D.

The museum has some unique masterpieces of art in its collections. The most important of which include the Trivulzio's cup, a rare example of intact diatret glass from the Roman times; patera from Parabiago, beautiful example of silverware of the late Roman Empire and the art from Gandhara, the region between India, Pakistan and Afghanistan. The building of the museum is also very interesting as it has been constructed inside the structures of the Roman Circus. Remains from the Roman times can be seen present all around the museum.

The Municipal Archeological Museum has its home in the Benedictine Monastery since the 1960s. Established through a merger of the Brera Archeological Museum and the Municipal Art Museum, it houses items from the rich numismatic collection of Greek, Italian and Etruscan masterpieces. All the documentation of sculptures, ceramics and mosaics dating from the prehistoric to the modern age are housed in there. It has an interesting section of the items excavated from Palestine along with a complete section showing historic treasures from the Necropolis of Lovere. The Archaeological Museum is also famous for its rich scientific activity and for its accurate publications on the collections it houses.

A visit to the museum will give you a real insight into the history of the Milan during the Roman Empire.

Operation hours: Tuesday - Sunday 9 am - 5.30 pm.
4
Pinacoteca Castello Sforzesco

4) Pinacoteca Castello Sforzesco (must see)

Inaugurated in 1878, this well-known art gallery is part of the complex of the Sforza Castle Museums in Milan. The gallery displays over 230 artworks, which include masterpieces by Titian, Andrea Mantegna, Canaletto, Antonello da Messina, Pisanello, Vincenzo Foppa, Giovanni Bellini, Correggio, Bernardino Luini, Lorenzo Lotto, Tintoretto and others. The complete collection of the museum, enriched in the last two centuries by donations of illustrious citizens and collectors, now has more than 1500 artworks.

The first rooms of the Pinacoteca are dedicated to religious paintings of the 15th and 16th centuries with artworks by Vincenzo Foppa, Bergognone, Bramantino, Carlo Crivelli, Bernardino Luini and other Lombard and Italian Renaissance painters. This part of the museum includes the "Trivulzio Madonna" by Andrea Mantegna, dating from 1497 (another "Trivulzio Madonna" by Filippo Lippi is also in the museum).

The second half of the Pinacoteca displays artworks from the 16th, 17th and 18th century. This includes both secular and religious works from artists such as Canaletto, Giambattista Tiepolo, Bernardo Bellotto, Titian and Tintoretto.

Some portraits of the Sforza family members from the 15th-16th centuries century are also on display in the museum.

Tip:
Definitely get the audio guide and be prepared with a proximity card for your payment as for some odd reason they do not have the capability of accepting the usual chip card (fortunately, Google Pay works).
While there are 14 different exhibitions in the Castle itself, please note that some of these are closed in the afternoon. A ticket for all exhibitions in the Castle comes at a very reasonable cost.

Opening Hours:
Tue-Sun: 9am-5:30pm
5
Pinacoteca di Brera

5) Pinacoteca di Brera (must see)

Pinacoteca di Brera is an art collection in Milan containing one of the prime collections of Italian paintings obtained from churches and monasteries taken over during the Napoleonic rule. Though humble in size, the Pinacoteca displays superb and exclusive works by major Italian artists from the 13th to the 20th centuries.

There are nearly 40 rooms containing Italy's greatest masterpieces, including Andrea Mantegna's amazingly foreshortened "Dead Christ", Raphael's "Betrothal of the Virgin", and Piero della Francesca's "Madonna with Saints". The museum also exhibits more than 500 paintings of the Venetian school and Lombard school from the 14th to the 19th century. Precious paintings are exhibited in the chronological order from the 14th century to the Renaissance period so that you can see the progress of artistic techniques.

Pinacoteca di Brera is situated on the street of the same name where there are many traditional cafes loved by local people. As you enter from the main gate, you are welcomed by the statue of Napoleon. The Accademia di Belle Arti is situated on the 1st floor of the building and many young students and artists have joined it. The Brera Picture Gallery is on the 2nd floor.

A restoration laboratory is also working in the gallery where precious pieces of art are restored. There is also a modern art section with paintings of Modigliani and Picasso. The garden behind the Pinacoteca is a lovely little spot full of aromatic herbs, flowers, climbers and vegetable gardens. Europe's oldest ginkgo biloba trees, reaching a height of 30 feet, were also brought here from China in the early 1700s.

Why You Should Visit:
The gallery has recently been redone, and you can tell how much thought has been put into curation from minor details like the color of the background walls.
After you finish your visit, you can explore the lovely and interesting neighborhood of Brera for food & drinks – great way to spend a morning or afternoon.

Tip:
Take a good look at the free map to understand the flow of the gallery and find the rooms that interest you directly. To more fully appreciate the paintings, get the audio guide as well.
Another advice would be to use the seats when available as there is a lot to see here and a sit down to take it in every now and again is highly recommended.

Opening Hours:
Tue-Sun: 8:30am-7:15pm (ticket office closes at 6:40pm)
Every 3rd Thursday evening of the month, for Brera/Music performances:
8:30am-10:15pm (ticket office closes at 9:40pm)
6
Museo Poldi Pezzoli

6) Museo Poldi Pezzoli (must see)

Founded in 1881, the Poldi Pezzoli Museum was originally a private collection of Poldi Pezzoli and his mother, Rosa Trivulzio, and featured 19th-century Northern Italian and Flemish paintings along with a number of decorative art pieces including textiles, porcelain, glass, clocks, jewelry, and metal works.

In 1818, Poldi Pezzoli inherited great wealth from his uncle Giuseppe Pezzoli which included the beautiful palace and the garden filled with statues and fountains. He then spent his entire life decorating the house with paintings (spanning the 14th through 18th centuries) and eventually garnered 3,000 pieces of art.

During WWII, heavy bombings in one night destroyed all the main Milan museums. The Poldi Pezzoli palace was also severely damaged, yet the works of art – previously moved to a safer place – remained unharmed. From the 1950s onwards, the Association of Friends of the Museum and private Milanese donators replenished the collection further, making it one of the finest in Europe.

Why You Should Visit:
If you like to see what a man (and his mother) personally collected and kept in their home, this is a wonderful collection.
The building itself is gorgeous and you could spend much time observing the architecture and decoration of each exhibiting room.

Tip:
This museum is one of the very few places open on a Monday and is certainly inexpensive, so spending just a little extra for the audio guide is surely worth it.

Opening Hours:
Wed-Mon: 10am-6pm
7
Manzoni Museum

7) Manzoni Museum

Situated in the heart of Milan, Casa del Manzoni (Manzoni Museum) is a magnificently elaborated ex-residence of an Italian author and poet Alessandro Manzoni. Born in 1785, he was second in Italian literature only to Dante. Manzoni died a tragic death when he fell down the steps of San Fedele in 1873.

Inside the house where Manzoni once lived, everything seems to be frozen in time. There is an evocative atmosphere inside the rooms. All Italian schoolchildren study “I Promessi Sposi” (The Betrothed) and “Il Cinque Maggio”. Author’s desk is still present in the very room where the author wrote some of the most significant works in Italian literature and where Manzoni met Garibaldi in 1862 and Verdi in 1868. Pictures, prints and souvenirs donated by collectors such as Pietro Brambilla are on display here.

Many important people visited Manzoni house including Garibaldi, Verdi and author Tommaso Grossi. The interior of the house is very well preserved. National Centre for Manzoni Studies has been opened here along with a large library including over 40,000 books and the complete work of Manzoni. The building also hosts the National Manzoni Studies Centre and the Manzoni Museum.

Manzoni’s hobbies included botany and gardening and the presence of beautiful gardens here was one of the reasons of him buying the house. Tommaso Grossi also had a studio in the Manzoni home and he lived happily there for a long time. 

Casa del Manzoni is not just an outdoor museum; rather it is a masterpiece of architecture. Alive and stunning, it is an integral part of the monumental wealth of the city and treasure chest of great artistic significance.

Operation hours: Tuesday - Friday: 10 am - 6pm; Saturday: 2 pm - 6 pm.
8
Museo del Duomo

8) Museo del Duomo (must see)

The Museum del Duomo preserves artifacts and works of art that used to be located in the Duomo itself, as many items in the collections require special preservation and restoration. With its total 26 rooms spread across an area of 2000 sqm, the museum exhibits the items in chronological order, allowing one to follow on the cathedral's path since its founding in 1386 until the twentieth century.

Why You Should Visit:
Entry here is included in the Duomo ticket and the cool dark rooms also offer some respite from the heat of the city while you take in the beautiful pieces that make up the church's history. One of the major interest here is the magnificent 1:22 wooden scale model of the Duomo – a feat in itself!

Tip:
If you want more info in English you can also rent an audio guide.

Opening Hours:
Thu-Tue: 10am-6pm (last ticket: 5pm; last entry: 5:10pm)
9
Biblioteca Ambrosiana

9) Biblioteca Ambrosiana (must see)

Biblioteca Ambrosiana is a historic library in Milan. Named after Ambrose, the patron saint of Milan, it kept and organized the great databases of European culture. The famous Pinacoteca Ambrosiana – or the Ambrosian art gallery – is also present in the library.

Named after Ambrose, the patron saint of Milan, the library was founded in 1609 by Cardinal Federico Borromeo, whose agents scoured Western Europe and even Greece and Syria for books and manuscripts. Some major acquisitions of complete libraries were the manuscripts of the Benedictine monastery of Bobbio (1606) and the library of the Paduan Vincenzo Pinelli, whose more than 800 manuscripts filled 70 cases when they were sent to Milan and included the famous Iliad, the 'Ilias Picta'.

One innovation was that its books were housed in cases ranged along the walls, rather than chained to reading tables, the latter a medieval practice seen still today in the Laurentian Library of Florence. A printing press was attached to the library, and a school for instruction in the classical languages.

In 1603, a building was constructed to house the cardinal's 15,000 manuscripts and printed books who gave his collection of paintings and drawings to the library. Shortly after the cardinal's death, his library acquired twelve manuscripts of Leonardo da Vinci, including the 'Codex Atlanticus'. The library now contains some 12,000 drawings by European artists, from the 14th through the 19th centuries, which have come from the collections of a wide range of patrons and artists, academicians, collectors, art dealers, and architects. Prized manuscripts, including the Leonardo codices, were requisitioned by the French during the Napoleonic occupation, and only partly returned after 1815.

The library also houses Christian and Islamic Arabic manuscripts, 11th-century diwan of poets and the oldest copy of the 'Kitab Sibawahaihi'. The building was damaged in World War II, with the loss of the archives of opera libretti of La Scala, but was restored in 1952 and underwent major restorations in 1990–97.

Artwork at the Pinacoteca Ambrosiana includes da Vinci's "Portrait of a Musician", Caravaggio's "Basket of Fruit", and Raffaello's natural-size sketch of the "The School of Athens" that you normally visit at the Vatican in full color (here you can see it in pencil and carbon).

Why You Should Visit:
Overlooked by most tourists, on a weekday you'll have this incredible library/gallery nearly to yourself.
You'll get to see art restorers at work, peculiar Renaissance masterpieces and a brilliant building.

Tip:
The map/guide given out is clear, with all main highlights identified, but if you're pressed for time, a guided tour of the highlights is advisable.
Apparently, there's also a paid audio guide (English/Italian) which gives some interesting insights about each room and many artworks.

Opening Hours:
Tue-Sun: 10am-6pm

Walking Tours in Milan, Italy

Create Your Own Walk in Milan

Create Your Own Walk in Milan

Creating your own self-guided walk in Milan is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
Central Milan Souvenir Shopping

Central Milan Souvenir Shopping

It would be a pity to leave Milan without having explored its specialty shops and bringing home something truly original. We've compiled a list of gifts and souvenirs, which are unique to Milan, that a visitor might like to purchase to reflect their visit.

Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 4.9 km
Shopping Streets and Spots

Shopping Streets and Spots

Milan is a world-renown fashion and design capital. Here, you can find most of the world's top fashion brands, from Gucci, Versace, Dolce & Gabbana to Levi's and Diesel. Fashion is the second religion in Milan and this self-guided tour will take you to the worship places of the fashionistas and shopaholics.

Tour Duration: 3 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 5.0 km
West Centro Walking Tour

West Centro Walking Tour

Milan is a city steeped in history, but also a strategic economic center for Italy, as well as an international fashion hub. Thousands of tourists are attracted to the city's striking historic sites, as well as designer shops and other great places to explore. Take this tour and visit the main sites in Milan's Centro Storico.

Tour Duration: 3 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 4.6 km
Religious Sights Walking Tour

Religious Sights Walking Tour

Milan may be a world fashion capital and an European financial capital, but religion, and "the church" in particular, remain a major part of Milanese life. Many of the churches that you see today have undergone reconstruction or renovation, as preserving historic and religious heritage is one of the city's priorities. Take this tour to visit some of the most notable places of...  view more

Tour Duration: 3 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 5.7 km
Core of Centro Storico Walking Tour

Core of Centro Storico Walking Tour

Milan is a city that boasts both historic and modern architecture. It is also a strategic economic center for Italy and is home to the country's stock exchange. Thousands of tourists are attracted to the city's striking historic sites like the La Scala opera house and the famous Duomo, as well as designer shops and other great places to explore.

Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.0 km
City Orientation Walking Tour

City Orientation Walking Tour

Throughout its 2,000+ year-long history Milan has accumulated an impressive collection of architectural monuments, thanks to some of the best artists and architects this world had ever seen who blessed the city with their presence. Masterpieces like the Gothic Duomo di Milano cathedral and the Santa Maria delle Grazie convent, housing Leonardo da Vinci’s mural “The Last Supper,” vividly...  view more

Tour Duration: 3 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 5.9 km

Useful Travel Guides for Planning Your Trip


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Souvenir Shopping Guide: 16 Italian Goods Worth Buying in Milan

Souvenir Shopping Guide: 16 Italian Goods Worth Buying in Milan

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16 Best Pastry Shops in Milan Italy

16 Best Pastry Shops in Milan Italy

Are you looking to satisfy your sweet tooth with genuine, locally-made Italian pastries and drink real “espresso”? This guide covers the best pastry shops/cafes in Milan, the capital of fashion and excellent northern Italian food. Places where one can drink coffee or tea and eat some of the...
Milan's Fashion Restaurants & Bars

Milan's Fashion Restaurants & Bars

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Sweet Shops of Milan

Sweet Shops of Milan

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12 Cafes To Visit in Milan

12 Cafes To Visit in Milan

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Tips for Exploring City on Foot at Your Own Pace

Whether you are in Milan for a quick stopover or have a few days to see the city in more detail, exploring it on foot, at your own pace, is definitely the way to go. Here are some tips for you to save money, see the best Milan has to offer, take good care of your feet while walking, and keep your mobile device – your ultimate "work horse" on this trip - well fed and safe.

Saving Money with City Passes


To save yourself time and money visiting Milan's multiple sights, you may want to resort to the so-called city passes, such as the Milan Pass and Milano Card.

A city pass combines all or multiple Milan's top highlights, tours and experiences in one prepaid attractions pass, using which you can save incredible amounts on general admission fees as compared to purchasing tickets separately. Often, a city pass also allows you to skip the lines at major attractions, thus saving you precious time.

Staying at Walk-Friendly Hotels


Since you're keen on exploring cities on foot (we assume that you are, and this is why you're here), it is important that you stay at a hotel close to the city's major attractions. It saves you time and energy. Here are a few of Milan hotels that are conveniently located, but at the same time, also not so ridiculously expensive: TownHouse Galleria, Room Mate Giulia, Maison Milano | UNA Esperienze.

Taking Care of Your Feet


To ensure ultimate satisfaction from a day of walking around the city as big as Milan, it is imperative to take good care of your feet so as to avoid unpleasant things like blisters, cold or overheated soles, itchy, irritated or otherwise damaged (cracked) skin, etc. Luckily, these days there is no shortage of remedies to address (and, ideally, to prevent) these and other potential problems with feet. Among them: Compression Socks, Rechargeable Battery-Powered Thermo Socks for Cold Weather, Foot Repair Cream, Deodorant Powder, Shoes UV Sterilizer, and many more that you may wish to find a place in your travel kit for.

Travel Gadgets for Your Mobile Device


Your mobile phone or tablet will be your work horse on a self-guided walk. They offer tour map, guide you from one attraction to another, and provide informative background for the sights you wish to visit. Therefore it is absolutely essential to plan against unexpected power outages in the wrong place at the wrong time, much as to ensure the safety of your device.

For these and other contingencies, here's the list of useful appliances: Portable Charger/External Battery Pack, Worldwide Travel Charger Adapter, Power Converter for International Travel Adapter, and Mobile Device Leash.

Exploring City on Guided Tours


We have a strong bias towards exploring a city on foot, at your own pace, because this is how you get to see things up close with a maximum freedom. You decide how much time you wish to spend at each attraction and don't have to worry about following a crowd. That said, however, we also understand that some of you may want to go with a guided tour. If that is your case, here are some guided tours to consider. Be ready to fork out a bit of money, though, as a guided tour of Milan typically costs from around US$25 up to US$80 or more per person:

- Board a hop-on hop-off double-decker to enjoy sightseeing of Milan from the open top of the bus, listening in the headsets to the commentary provided in a variety of languages, and be able get off at any of the stops along the three interconnecting routes (your ticket is valid for all three).

- Embark on a self-balancing Segway tour – this usually lasts 3 hours and allows visitors to get a real sense of the city. Most people (even those aged 70+) find it quite fun and convenient, enabling to cover much more ground than you otherwise would have done by walking.

- Pedal your way around Milan on a bike tour (3 to 3.5 hours) visiting the city's most spectacular sights, stopping at each of them for a bit of rest, watching the surroundings, and learning much about the city from an informative group leader.

- Enjoy a day of art, food, wine and sightseeing on a 3-hour tour of Milan following in the footsteps of Leonardo da Vinci! A great combination of the Renaissance, appetizers, and wines to help one unwind in a true Milanese style at one of the city's most fascinating spots.

- Take a walk deeper “under the skin” of Italy’s fashion capital. Skip lines to Milan's Duomo and Da Vinci’s “Last Supper” to save more time for visiting other iconic local attractions and experiencing the true spirit of Milan.

- Spend 3 hours sightseeing the center of Milan led by a knowledgeable local guide, exploring the city's most notable attractions like the Duomo, Piazza de’ Mercanti, the Loggia, via Dante, the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele, the Scala Theatre and many other prominent locations.

- Enjoy exclusive access “behind the scenes” of the Milanese Fashion District on the one and only Milano fashion tour visiting a number of the city's top ateliers and fashion stores. The tour guides have worked there for years themselves, so they know the fashion industry inside out to ensure you see only the best boutiques.

Day Trips


If you have a day to spare whilst in Milan, why not use it to explore some of the out-of-town destinations, like Venice, the Cinque Terre, a combo of Genoa and Portofino, Lake Como, or Lake Maggiore. For as little as circa US$80 to US$150 per person you will get a chance to discover the highlights of the UNESCO World Heritage sites including breathtaking Venice, small piece of paradise in the form of five little villages hanging from cliffs over the sea, glamorous coastal towns of the Italian Riviera, and the scenic Italian Lake District. For any of these tours you will be picked up either straight at your hotel or a designated place in Milan, and transported by a comfortable air-conditioned coach, minibus, boat or a private vehicle (whichever is applicable) to the destination of your choice and back again.